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$20M project planned on Pittsburgh's East Carson Street

Bob Bauder
| Friday, April 13, 2018, 4:45 p.m.
East Carson Street in the South Side on Tuesday, April 23, 2013.
Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review
East Carson Street in the South Side on Tuesday, April 23, 2013.

More than $20 million in safety improvements are coming to Pittsburgh's East Carson Street, which Pennsylvania has classified as the region's most dangerous thoroughfare for pedestrians.

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and Pittsburgh plan to begin work in September and continue until late 2019. PennDOT's work totaling $17.5 million includes paving of East Carson in the South Side from Smithfield Street to 33rd Street, new traffic lights, street lighting at intersections, pavement markings and painted cross walks that are larger and more visible and curb “bumpouts” that will shorten the distance in crosswalks and extend sidewalks. Bumpouts would come at a cost of 30 parking spots along the street.

PennDOT has classified the street, which carries between 12,000 and 15,000 vehicles per day, as a high-crash corridor. It's the worst in the region and sixth worst in the state.

PennDOT's website features a video overview of the project, including before and after clips of East Carson Street.

“This whole project came about because Carson Street has been recognized as a hazard,” said Mark Bucklaw, president of the South Side Chamber of Commerce. “I think they're much needed improvements.”

There have been 473 crashes, including three fatalities, along the popular bar and restaurant corridor from 2007 through 2011, according to PennDOT.

“It's just because there's a lot of people in a very condensed area,” Bucklaw said.

He said the chamber would provide periodic email alerts on the project and urged residents and business owners to join a mailing list on its website .

Pittsburgh is planning $3.2 million in streetscape improvements from 10th Street to 25th Street that include lighting between intersections, trees and partial sidewalk replacement.

Emily Gaspich, project manager with Pittsburgh's Department of Mobility and Infrastructure, said the city cannot afford to replace sidewalks that typically run from 8 to 10 feet wide. It plans to replace the first 3 feet of concrete from the curb for tree pits and lights. It would be up to property owners to replace the rest, she said.

“This is a cost share because we're paying for 3 feet of sidewalk in front of their properties,” she said. “They're essentially getting 30 percent of their sidewalk replaced by the city.”

Rich Cupka, owner of two South Side bar/restaurants and a coffee shop in the South Side, said he's lobbied the city for years to help replace sidewalks on East Carson. He said he would continue advocating for additional city funding.

“There hasn't been any upgrades in South Side for 35 years and with the amount of money that comes out of South Side with the alcohol tax and other taxes this is long overdue,” he said of the overall project.

The work is among $56.7 million in traffic, pedestrian and bicycle improvements underway or planned for the South Side.

Such improvements include Allegheny County's $20.2 million rehabilitation of the 10th Street Bridge and repairs to West Carson Street, 21st Street and 18th Street.

It also means plenty of future traffic headaches for the congested neighborhood.

“It's temporary inconvenience, permanent improvement,” Cupka said.

Bob Bauder is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-765-2312, or on Twitter @bobbauder.

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